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This is based on a true story. This is about Freda, a 14 years old girl, who is coincidentally a cousin of mine. Her parent went through a divorce when she was 9 years old. Even though her mother got the custody to take care of her, the mother and father still live together in the same house. Due to this, there were a lot of disputes in her family, and the intensity of conflict and discord got worst after the divorce, and this only affected Freda's social, family and academic life.
As there were so many problems in Freda's family, it began to take a toll on her school work and social life. She feels that there is no longer any point in studying as her parents does not even seem to care about her achievements. Due to this, she starts to perform badly in school, and her teachers start labeling her as a 'failure', without taking in account of the psychological problems she may be dealing with from her parents' divorce.
In addition, she was often a victim of bullying incidents in school, as she was an introverted student. Due to all these social and behavioral problems, her form teacher tried to get Freda's parents to come down to the school to talk about the problems she was facing in school. Her teachers were concerned for her as she started to skip school. They presumed that Freda was playing truancy just to avoid the bullies in school and wanted to talk to her parents about this matter.
However, Freda's parents were simply too busy with their work and were unable to set time aside to resolve the issues with her teacher, and thus they did not know of the multiple issues that Freda was facing in school.
As Freda's parents were both working adults, they have very little chances to spend quality time with their daughter. Due to this, they tend to make it up to her by buying her gifts or enrolling her in many courses, such as dance and music lessons. Her parents thought that this would keep her occupied and happy. However, this was not what Freda wanted for herself; she merely accepted what her parents had planned out for her.
2.0 Context of Development
2.1 Bronfenbrenner's bioecological theory
According to Bronfenbrenner's bioecological theory, the child experiences cognitive development in the context of a complex system of relationships including parent-child interaction (the "microsystem"), the extended family, school and neighborhood (the "mesosystem"), and the general society and culture (the "exosystem"). (Tan, Parsons, Hinson, & Sardo-Brown, 2010)
As seen from the scenario, Freda's cognitive development was affected due to the poor microsystem she had. As Freda came from a divorced family, she had a lot of psycho-social problems in her life. This in turn affected her mesosystem, as there was a lack of parental involvement in Freda's life, as seen from the scenario. Freda's parents were so busy with their work and arguments that they failed to play an active role in her life, such as turning up for parent teacher conferences and spending time with her. Due to this her developmental growth in certain channels was hindered. In addition, Freda's parents were usually cooped up in their office dealing with their company's work. Thus, her exosystem also had a negative impact on her developmental growth, as her parents' workload resulted in lesser time spent with her. Their jobs kept them so busy that they were unable to play an active role in Freda's life.
Her chronosystem was also affected due to her negative family experiences. Due to her poor chronosystem, she was introverted and unable to maintain good relationships with her peers. (Oswalt, 2008)
2.2 Parenting Styles
As Freda's parents were both working, they tend to neglect their child's needs as they were usually too tired to find out how she is doing in school. Due to this, her mum always try to make it up to her by buying gifts for her hoping that it will compensate for the lack of time spent with her. However, children need their parents' attention, love and presence and the parent should understand that nothing will be able to replace that. (Helping children cope with divorce)
It is crucial to have a good microsystem as this will influence the child's development. The qualities of the connections between these various systems have important influences over a child's development. (Bronfenbrenner, 1998) Thus, it is crucial for her parents to show more involvement in the child's education as this can enhances the child's ability to learn and to succeed at school. (Urdan & Pajares, Educating Adolescents:Challenges and Strategies, 2004) Especially for Freda's case, her parents would need to put in more effort to show that they do care and still love her even though they are divorced.
Thus, Freda's parents should try to play a more active role in her life, such as participating in school activities, going to parent teacher conferences to find out about how she is performing in school. When parents are involved in their child's education, the child will perform better academically and is more engaged in school overall, reporting more effort, concentration, and attention. (Urdan & Pajares, Educating Adolescents:Challenges and Strategies, 2004) Therefore it is vital for Freda's parents to develop an amicable relationship with each other, instead of constantly getting into arguments over trivial matters. They should try to resolve their differences for the sake of their child.
Similarly, there is a need for Freda's parents to adopt a different parenting style as their uninvolved parenting style contributed to Freda's academic failure and social problems. Thus, her parent could adopt the authoritative parenting style as research has found this to be the most effective parenting style. Baumrind suggests that this parenting style allows parents to maintain parental control over their children conduct, but remain nurturing and forgiving when the child is unable to meet their expectations. (Cherry)
3.0 Self and Identity Development
3.1 Identity Status & Erikson's Psychosocial Theory
According to both Erikson and Marcia theories, some adolescents are able to question and examine which set of values, characteristics, and beliefs best suit them, while many other adolescents do not question or explore these areas at all. (Oswalt, Overview of Adolescent Development: Part II, 2010) In Freda's case, she was unable to determine her own unique individual identity and therefore, faces identity foreclosure issues.
Identity foreclosure youths simply obtain their identity by accepting the beliefs and values of their family, community and culture. (Oswalt, James Marcia and Self-Identity, 2010) Such youths passively accept the identity assigned to them. (Oswalt, James Marcia and Self-Identity, 2010) According to Erikson, "Most adolescents are able to accept with little question the expectations their parents have for them". (R. Matteson, 1975)
Likewise in the scenario, Freda's parents made her join a lot of different courses; dance and music lessons even though that was not what she wanted for herself. As much as she dreaded it, she felt that she should go along with her parents' plans since she was unsure of her own future.
Freda had issues establishing her own identity also due to the lack of peer support. There was no assimilation of roles, as she did not have any friends to provide her any guidance and opinions of 'who' she really is, or should be. This affected her identity formation as support from friends can help adolescents form a positive identity.(Woodhead, 1999). This is especially important for adolescents as they are at the stage when they will face identity and role diffusion issues. They tend to be unsure of 'who' they are, and worry about 'fitting' in society. Thus it is even more important for Freda to befriend more people as peers support will help her to establish her identity. However, as Freda was so insecure and introverted, she tends to be obstracized and victimized by her peers due to her lack of social skills.
Freda has a very low self-esteem because she does not feel loved by her parents and this was also the main reason behind her inability to handle conflicts and her emotions. Due to her low self-esteem, she was unwilling to interact with her classmates and tend to keep to herself.
According to Erikson's theory, one has to successfully get through each 'crisis' to get to the next developmental stage in life. When a person passes unsuccessfully through a psychosocial crisis stage, this may become a mental problem. (Group, 2009)
Therefore, teachers and parents have a crucial role in helping adolescents in guiding them in their search for their own unique identity. They should help to develop a sense of identity in them, for example showing acknowledge of their efforts when they manage to accomplish a task successfully. They should not impose their ideals on them, and encourage them to accept who they truly are. The schools and teachers could help to encourage identity exploration by incorporating programs in an encouraging environment.
Freda's parent could also send their child to a counselor to help them to boost their self-esteem by viewing themselves in a positive light, and to accept who they truly are. The teacher could also help to boost Freda's self esteem by implementing cooperative learning in the classroom as this helps to promote interaction in the classroom.
4.0 Social Development
Social development refers to the process of development by which a child acquires the necessary attitudes, skills and values that make him an acceptable member of the group to which he or she belongs. (Group, 2009)
The process of social development in children is gradual and stretches over many years. The social development continues even when the child steps into adolescence, then youth and eventually adulthood. (K, 2010) Thus it is important for the teachers, peers, parents to play a role to ensure a healthy social development.
4.1 Friends and Peers
During early adolescence, having close relationships and being accepted into a peer group is very important. (Group, 2009) However as Freda is a very introverted student, she has problems befriending people in her class. It is crucial for Freda to find ways to establish friendships with people in her school as friends' support enhances adolescents' self esteem. This in turn helps to improve their ability to cope with stressful events. Adolescents who have supportive friendships have higher self-esteem and suffer less often from loneliness, anxiety, and emotional problem. Such adolescents have positive attitudes toward school and higher level of academic achievement. (Urdan & Pajares, Educating Adolescents: Challenges and Strategies, 2004)
Adolescents who face divorce issues in their family tend to have social emotional functioning problems such as depression. The bullying incidents Freda faces in school also worsen her emotional and behavioral problems. Due to the numerous bullying incidents she had encountered in school, she starts to feel even more depressed and starts to show signs of school avoidance.
Research has shown that teachers often become a central figure in the lives of children in such situations, thus it is also important for the classroom teacher to educate their students about the topic of divorce through class discussions, especially when divorces cases are becoming increasingly common in our society. Thus, the teachers should try to coach the students in perspective taking, so they would be able to show empathy for each other by being sensitive to their classmates who came from divorced family.
Freda's parents could send her to a counseller to help them cope with their emotions. Counseling benefits children of divorce as it develop a sense of belonging in them, as their problems are shared with their peers and through this, they would be able to develop positive coping skills. (Counselling Benefits Divorced Children)
4.3.3 School Environment
The teacher would need to understand that the crisis that teen face in the adolescence stage is not primarily interfamilial, but personal and social. (R. Matteson, 1975) Thus, the parents and teacher could teach Freda ways to cope with her social emotional problems. Thus, the teachers should try to implement SEL into the school's curriculum to equip them with the social emotional skills to 'manage self, relate to others, and make decisions' in challenging situations. (MOE, 2010)
Under the SEL curriculum, students will be taught the 5 core competencies which are namely; self awareness, self management, social awareness, relationship management, and responsible decision making.
With the right social and emotional competencies, Freda would then be able to develop a positive self-worth and also build good relationships with her peers. As for the rest of the class, they will get to understand the importance of respecting one another's differences through the social awareness competency, and this will also help to lessen conflicts like bullying, gang-related activities in school.
4.3.4 Peer Support Programs
The school could introduce a peer support program in school to develop strategies for addressing violence and bullying in school. Training in peer support improves self-confidence, gives young people useful skills, enhances their sense of social responsibility and gives them a useful opportunity to act pro-socially in their school. (Woodhead, 1999) This would also develop social intelligence and metacognition in them.
The teacher should try to be more observant and take note of such bullying incidents, and try to intervene in such problem situations. This will then prevent such bullying incidents from happening, and students will be able to see the school climate as a safer environment. Students who feel safer in school and perceive the school climate to be positive are much more likely to be academically successful than students who are anxious, inattentive, and feel disengaged from school. (Urdan & Pajares, Educating Adolescents:Challenges and Strategies, 2004)\
4.3.5 Addressing the diverse needs of the students
It is also crucial for the teacher to understand the diverse students' needs, and not judge them on their past performance in school or their family history. Teachers should try to know them on a personal level and show respect for each individual student regardless of the differences they may have.
The adolescence period is considered as a transitional standardized human developmental phase, which is crucially important to every human identity and society as a whole. (Sarkar, 2007)
At the adolescence stage, youths are undergoing many developmental and physical changes as they slowly make the transition into adulthood. It may be somewhat overwhelming and thus is especially crucial for the parents, teachers to offer them the guidance that they need as the family and school environment plays the most important influence in facilitating identity formation.